How we’re pushing the boundaries of applied intelligence to innovate treasury
December 6, 2021
Like many corporate treasury functions, Accenture’s own treasury operated in a decentralized fashion with our many country teams reliant on traditional spreadsheets and daily reports. Today, it’s a very different story. Our Intelligent Cash solution that now powers our Accenture Treasury has made a significant impact to Accenture’s cash performance.
But getting to this point was a journey for our Applied Intelligence team in Accenture’s global IT organization—of learning and pushing the boundaries of what advanced algorithms can do together with our leading SAP systems.
First: Capturing cash position
Our Intelligent Cash journey was made possible due to Accenture’s foundation of SAP S/4HANA, SAP Business Warehouse, a HANA back end, a HANA data mart we built, and our single global SAP system instance. We started our journey with the development of a cash position dashboard based on some fit-for-purpose information models we created. The models are fed with our S/4 transactional data that we run through our data mart and the HANA system. The dashboard uses descriptive analytics to show near-real-time cash positions across the globe, presented in an easy-to-understand way.
Second: Forecasting cash
Then we said, OK, we know how much money we have, but we need to know how much money we are going to have six quarters out. This need led us to develop a forecast tool. We used sophisticated algorithms and AI to generate a forecast for each business unit.
The algorithms adapt to the behavior of cash flow items, geographical differences, and data volumes. They feed on transactional history that is categorized by a machine-learning algorithm. The tool automatically classifies and aggregates bank statements on a weekly basis to gather data on transactions, including collections and disbursements. It then feeds this data into a predictive cash forecast model.
This was great, but we needed a way of capturing user adjustment to the forecast. This is where we chose to use SAP Analytics Cloud as the platform to integrate our analytics models with Accenture’s SAP Finance ecosystems. With it, we could bring everything together into one consumption portal for our Treasury users, enabling them to easily adjust and validate forecasts.
Third: Optimizing cash
The final need was to optimize cash. We developed the Cash Inventory Optimizer to provide recommendations on whether to inject or extract cash. The model uses prescriptive analytics to consider cash balances, cash forecasts, and economic factors to automatically recommend the best action for each currency to bring the highest business value and uses a cutting-edge genetic algorithm as its optimization engine. The optimizer enables the Treasury team to reduce idle cash, hold cash in a more centralized fashion, adjust use of credit lines, and reduce transaction costs.
Pushing the boundaries
We pushed the boundaries in many ways in developing Intelligent Cash. We created our models on top of our HANA data mart, which is a territory we hadn’t visited in the past. It was something we had to figure out—as well as how to render them in SAP Analytics Cloud. In the beginning, none of us understood how to bring the vision to life in SAP Analytics Cloud. It was a new application for us. We had to partner with SAP to learn how to use it to make the most of its capabilities.
On top of that, this was our first attempt at integrating AI with SAP Analytics Cloud. So, not only did we need to learn how to use the tool, but we also wanted to extend it beyond basic reporting capabilities. Again, we worked with SAP to figure out how to do that. We knew we could take our expertise and learn a technology we’re not familiar with and figure out how to make it work, which we did.
In the end, what’s unique about Intelligent Cash is that we’re combining our custom algorithms for forecasting and cash optimization with rich SAP functionality in one solution that all sits on top of Accenture’s massive SAP landscape.
A continuing journey
Intelligent Cash is delivering tremendous benefits to Accenture today, including freeing up 20% of cash previously required for operational liquidity, adding additional cash into Accenture’s centralized, in-house bank structure.
But our journey hasn’t ended there. We are progressing with our analytics, enabling more automation and reporting, and planning to move several applications to SAP Analytics Cloud. We’re also evaluating where else this solution can be used within Accenture to further maximize this innovative investment.
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